Not a good night story

The bedtime battle is hard, and last night’s was exceptionally tough. To begin with, yesterday wasn’t a great day. Adam (my hubby) went back to work after 5 days off sick (both us and the kids), and it was another day at home with the kids who still aren’t feeling 100%. They were all very clingy and I couldn’t leave them or put them down without tears, which is tough when there are 3 of them. It was a long day and by the time Adam got home from work, I was spent. He ran me a bath to soak away my frustrations, while he fed the twins their dinner (very lucky I know), and I came out feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the night. We got the twins into bed and went through the usual routine with Mr 3y.o, who was having his first night back in his bed after spending a few nights on a mattress in our room while he was sick.

We read a book, discussed the importance of staying in bed and going to sleep, had a cuddle while he got relaxed and sleepy, and I left the room full of hope that the night would be better and that he would go to sleep well. I’d barely made it back to the kitchen when he came bouncing out of his bed (yes, I did say that I’d left him relaxed and sleepy). I took a deep breath and went and tucked him back into bed again, with another cuddle and chat about staying in his bed. After a very short time, he was back out again and this time Adam went to tuck him in. I then lost count of the number of times he came out, and whether it was the noisy rain, he wanted another cuddle, he’d hurt his foot (which wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed in his bed), he had a song to sing, or he just didn’t want to go to sleep. Each time he kicked up more of a fuss until he worked himself up to screaming and crying. It was at this point, and after well over an hour, that my patience ran out and I snapped and joined him in screaming as I put him back to bed. I felt rubbish, but I had had it with the bedtime battle.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, he got out of bed yet again. I tried to remove myself from the situation (because I knew I wasn’t coping) and got Adam to take over and put him back to bed, but that just made things worse with our boy screaming the house down because he wanted me to tuck him in. I went back in, but with his screaming and being beyond the point of listening (how could I tuck him in like he wanted if he wouldn’t lie down?), I struggled to stay calm and again we were both screaming. I pulled it together and calmed down (to the state I had been in for the first hour of this bedtime battle), and finally he calmed too, asking for a cuddle. We sat on the bed (with Adam too) and I burst into tears. I was absolutely shattered, I felt beaten and unsure of how we were going to get bedtime to be easier, and I felt completely rubbish at what had just played out.

Seeing me upset, our boy started to cry again too. I explained to him why I was upset and he softly replied, ‘but you can (get me to sleep), because you can Mum, and you’re great at it’. He then asked if I’d do some deep breaths with him, which is something we do to help him calm down. My heart melted at his attempts to repair the situation, and I sobbed some more as I felt even worse for not being able to solve our bedtime troubles. I did some deep breaths with him while he encouragingly said, ‘great job!’ As I tucked him into bed and we laid there cuddling, he said, ‘you’re better now Mummy, I know you’re better because you did great deep breaths with me and you’re not angry or cross anymore and you’re happy again.’ He finally drifted off to sleep. It was 10:10pm.

Bedtime battles are hard. Over the past 12 months, I feel like we’ve tried every trick in the book – a cot in his room, cot in our room, back in his bed, different lights, oils, lying with him, meditation music, etc. – and almost run out of energy. After each tiring day at home with 3 little ones, all I want to be able to do is to tuck them into bed, put my feet up, and spend some time with my hubby or just myself (and eat chocolate and ice cream). The last thing I want is to be battling with our little man for 1.5 – 2 hours every night trying to get him to sleep. As I collapsed into bed last night, feeling like I had failed and scrolling through different articles on toddler behaviour and sleep, I knew that I wasn’t alone. Although every child is different (and sleeps differently), I know that many of us face these same exhausting and frustrating battles every night and that makes it a bit easier. I also know that the nights when they surprise us and go to sleep without the battle (you know those ones when visitors are over) far outweigh those tough nights that aren’t handled the best, and that every night is a new opportunity.

Fingers crossed for a smoother night tonight…


The First 3 Years of Sleep(lessness)

Our firstborn has never been a sleeper. Since birth, he has been the type that would stay up partying all night if we let him. He wasn’t the kind of baby who would just fall asleep anywhere (I hear they exist!?), want to be cuddled to sleep, or ever fed to sleep. When he was 5 months old, he fell asleep whilst sitting on my lap at a mothers’ group catch-up, and that was the first and last time he did that. Despite this, he has always been a very happy, energetic boy, with a very active mind. As we approach his 3rd birthday, I have been reflecting on the last 3 years, how our little man has grown, and our experience with sleep or sleeplessness.

img_6732-1The First Year

Well, those first couple of months are a real adjustment period aren’t they? Going from uninterrupted sleep (for the most part), to multiple waking’s, with feeding and settling at all hours (and sometimes for hours) of the night. When our boy was 8 weeks old, we went on our first family weekend getaway and he slept 10 hours straight on both nights. It was absolute heaven (bar the swollen, leaky chest), but upon returning home, those long stretches were long gone. At about the 3 month mark, things got rather testing with our boy waking 3 – 4 times a night, which then progressed to waking approx. 40 – 60 minutes after we had put him down for the night, and every 1.5 – 2 hours after that.

When he was 4.5months old, I decided to seek help and I contacted Ngala. After a consultation over the phone with one of their lovely team members, I was given some suggestions on calming our baby boy before his bedtime and given a gentle technique to try for enabling him to self-settle.  Implementing this new technique allowed me to learn the difference between our boy’s cries for the first time, and gave me a newfound strength. The first couple of sleeps following this were tough, but he showed signs of improvement instantly. He quickly learnt to self-settle and the number of night waking’s reduced and we were all more relaxed and rested.

At 6 months, with both sadness and excitement, we moved his cot into the nursery. Sadness, because it meant that our baby boy was growing up, and excitement, because it meant we wouldn’t be woken by his little grunts and groans throughout the night. I still continued to feed him if he woke during the night, which was usually just the once. At about 7 months, we went through a fun phase of early waking’s between 5am and 6am, then at 7.5 months he pulled out the old standing in the cot trick, which thankfully didn’t last too long. From 8 months, we turned a corner and he started giving us the occasional full night of sleep (yippee!!). When he was approx. 11 months old, the solid nights became his norm, and we ended our first year on a high. He was also still having 2 day sleeps at this point.

The Second Yearimg_8066

The second year was certainly our good news story. Our 1 year old had become a regular all-nighter and we had a bedtime routine that worked for us. Part of this, was accepting that he would take some time to wind down at night, with him recapping his day or often singing himself to sleep (which he still does). Just as he would go to sleep talking, he would also wake up in the same way, which provided us with some morning entertainment over the baby monitor. He dropped to 1 sleep not long after his 1st birthday, which also made it easier for us to get out and about more. With the impending arrival of our twins and our boy’s 2nd birthday, we decided to transition him from his cot in the nursery, into a ‘big boy bed’ in his new room. We felt that it was best to start the transition before the twins arrived, and also felt that it would help with preparing our boy for the change, by having the nursery set up with the 2 cots. We weren’t prepared for what the following year would have install for us, but the unknown is just one of the ‘joys’ of parenting!

Timg_8779he Third Year

This past year has really had us questioning how much (or how little) sleep we need to survive. The introduction of his ‘big boy bed’ and new room came with a new set of challenges for us all, not to mention adding newborn twins and toilet training into the mix. No longer confined to a cot, our 2 year old discovered the freedom of being able to get out of bed unassisted, and he certainly did not waste the opportunity. After endless nights with multiple escapes, and finding him asleep on his bedroom floor, on the lounge in the living area, on our bedroom floor, or in our bed, we resorted to putting a safety gate across his doorway. This eased our concerns over what he might get into during the night with his access-all-areas pass, helped us preserve some patience and sanity, and stopped those frightful experiences of having a little 2 year old suddenly appear at our bedside in the night.

We have gone through just about every phase this year. From him falling asleep at the gate, removing his nappy (whilst toilet training), sleeping in a portacot in our room, sleeping in a portacot back in his room, to now being back in his ‘big boy bed’ (*fingers crossed!*). We’ve tackled multiple night waking’s, night terrors, ghosts that only come when he’s in his ‘big boy bed’, early morning waking’s, etc. We are now experts in his stalling tactics, the needing a drink, the toilet, more cuddles, another drink, or needing to see the moon, read a book or any other part of our bedtime routine that we may have missed. We have learnt that our boy sleeps best if he has a night light, his beloved blankie, his afternoon sleep (the nights are a challenge if he misses this), and lots of cuddles of course, and that he just has a very active mind.

For us, the last three years have really been about trial and error, and accepting our new way of ‘sleep’. After spending the first year worrying about our boy’s sleep (or lack of), we’ve learnt to relax and to have the occasional laugh at the challenges we are thrown. There are many different phases, milestones and tests along the way, but it is important not to make too many comparisons, to do what works best for you and your little one(s), and to remember that every day is a new day.